Fortunately Forgiven

Oxford Studies in Normative Ethics (forthcoming)
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Proceeding from the assumptions that forgiveness is at least sometimes elective and that it changes the normative relations between victims and wrongdoers, this paper argues that our practices of forgiveness are subject to an overlooked form of moral luck, forgiveness-luck. Forgiveness-luck is introduced via reflection on ‘differential forgiveness’, wherein of two equally culpable and remorseful agents, one is forgiven and the other not, and both justifiably so. In being forgiven—at least if forgiveness is normatively significant— one undergoes a positive alteration in one’s moral status, i.e., a positive alteration in one’s permissions, obligations, or interpersonal reasons that is implied by one’s being the target of a positive moral responsibility-response. It is also illustrated how responsibility-responses other than forgiveness are candidate determinates of one’s moral status. As such, this paper outlines a capacious conception of moral luck, according to which moral statuses beyond blameworthiness (and praiseworthiness) are determinable by factors beyond one’s control. The capacious conception avoids rendering the existence of moral luck a trivial matter (as it preserves the distinction between moral luck and morally significant plain luck) and—at least if moral responsibility is understood in terms of accountability— preserves continuity with narrower conceptions of moral luck.

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Daniel Telech
Lund University


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